Priest charged with stealing $305K

Bank tipped police on suspicious activity

Courier-Post/August 4, 2011

Wilmington -- For the second time in six months, a Roman Catholic priest is facing felony theft charges in New Castle County Superior Court.

A New Castle County Grand Jury this week indicted the Rev. Michael Angeloni on charges that he stole $305,000 from an elderly female parishioner.

The Delaware Attorney General's office said Wednesday that an arrest warrant has been issued for 62-year-old Angeloni, who is not yet in custody, on one count of theft of more than $100,000.

Prosecutors said the indictment comes after a five-month investigation by the Delaware Attorney General's Senior Protection Initiative.

Angeloni is accused of soliciting money on multiple occasions from the woman -- a parishioner at Church of the Holy Child (Brandywood) on Naamans Road -- where Angeloni had served as an associate pastor.

Prosecutors said Angeloni told the victim he needed the money for certain, specific personal expenses, "when in fact, the money was used for other purposes."

Prosecutors did not explain what those "other purposes" were -- or the personal expenses -- but said they were tipped off to the problem by Wilmington Trust, which reported suspicious financial activity on the victim's account. Court papers indicate the thefts of funds occurred between August of 2008 and February 2011 and that the victim was over the age of 62.

Ed Osborne, who operates an auto repair shop on Wilmington's Riverfront, said he is a parishioner at Holy Child, knows Angeloni and three or four months ago loaned the priest $200 when Angeloni approached him and said he was "in trouble."

"He said his back was against the wall," recalled Osborne, and that Angeloni needed some money to get him through a few weeks until a check he was expecting arrived.

Osborne said he had done some work on the priest's car in the past and generally liked him but now feels betrayed. Osborne said if Angeloni was soliciting money from him and the senior victim, he suspects that there must be others as well.

Delaware Attorney General Beau Biden said the investigation is ongoing and he encouraged any additional victims to contact the Senior Protection Initiative.

Osborne said he is not upset about the money. Two hundred dollars is nothing compared with what was taken from the woman, Osborne said. "What is really bad is losing faith in another person. That is what really hurts," he said.

Wilmington Bishop W. Francis Malooly issued a statement Wednesday saying that news of the criminal indictment "saddens me greatly. Our prayers are with him."

Malooly said Angeloni told him at a recent meeting that he was the subject of a criminal investigation.

"After reviewing the matter with Father Angeloni, I placed him on administrative leave. His faculties to perform ministry and to function as a priest were withdrawn at that time," he said.

According to a notice in the diocese newspaper, The Dialog, that suspension occurred in late April. A book on the Jubilee of Wilmington Diocese published in 2000 noted that Angeloni was granted a temporary leave of absence from his duties in 1999. An online bulletin from the Church of the Holy Child indicates Angeloni asked for and received a second leave of absence effective Dec. 20, 2010, and the pastor at the time encouraged parishioners to turn out for a mass that weekend to thank Angeloni for his service and wish him well.

Osborne described Angeloni as an entertaining priest.

"He was different. He used to say his aunt was a bookie. That made him likeable. He wasn't ho-hum."

Osborne recalled one Sunday at Holy Child when a busload of tourists stopped in for mass on their way to Delaware Park and Angeloni told them, "It is a commonly known fact in Delaware that the more you give to the church, the more you win back at Delaware Park."

"If that doesn't happen, my name is Father Kirk," Angeloni concluded according to Osborne, adding it was funny because it was clear at that point that he was not Father Kirk, a different priest at Holy Child.

Biden said in a statement that his office remains on watch to protect seniors from exploitation and abuse.

"Crimes in which a person abuses a position of trust to financially prey on their victim are especially unconscionable," said Biden.

In February, a different priest faced the exact same charge in Superior Court. The Rev. Cornelius Breslin was charged with stealing more than $350,000 from St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception and St. Patrick churches, where he was pastor.

Breslin, who is also suspended, pleaded guilty to one count of theft over $100,000 last month. In that case, Breslin was caught by a church audit. He now faces up to 15 years in prison when he is sentenced in September.

Wilmington Diocese spokesman Robert Krebs said these are "two separate incidents, and while both are extremely sad in and of themselves, it appears to be nothing more than coincidence that they happened so close together."

Krebs, like Biden, also noted that Angeloni is presumed innocent until proven guilty. "It would be premature to say what the outcome is going to be," Krebs said.

Angeloni was ordained in 1975 and has served in Delaware throughout his ministry, according to the diocese. He has served as associate pastor at St. John the Baptist/Holy Angels Parish in Newark, Holy Family Parish in Newark, St. Mary of the Assumption Parish in Hockessin and Church of the Holy Child. Angeloni also has held the position of pastor at St. John the Apostle Parish in Milford and St. Bernadette Parish in Harrington.

Staff reporter Beth Miller contributed to this report.

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